Essential oils and herbs for aches and pains

I am sure many of you know about the health benefits of herbs and essential oils.  In the years, before modern medicine, people relied on herbal- and natural medicines, to help them with pain and illnesses.  Natural medicines have been around for much, much longer than modern medicine.  As a Naturopath and user of natural medicines myself, I can attest to the long-term benefits.  The big difference between the 2 is that natural medicines (including homeopathic remedies), treat the origin of the illness, whereas modern medicines treat the symptoms.  For example, homeopathic- and other natural remedies, like tissue salts, treat the origin of the allergic reaction.  Histamine, on the other hand, treat the symptoms by subduing the origin, but it doesn’t stop you from getting an allergic reaction in the first place.

Here is a few examples of how essential oils and herbs, can help with aches and pains.  Many of these herbs you will find in kitchen cupboards, I’m sure!

Sage:  Sage tea and essential oils are excellent in treating respiratory illnesses and lung issues.  When you inhale it, it clears the sinuses and soothes lung problems.

Plantain Leaf:  it has powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in.  Plantain Leaf helps to soothe a dry cough, treats lung irritations and colds, and promotes mucus production in the lungs.

Thyme:  a common herb, used as medicine and in the kitchen, is used to fight chest congestions.  Thanks to its powerful antiseptic essential oils; it is a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal.  Drinking thyme tea can help to cleanse bacteria and viruses from the body, to help it fight infections.

Osha Root:  this is a root that is native to the Rocky mountain-area.  It contains camphor and other compounds, which support the lungs, boost circulation to the lungs and helps you to breathe more easily.

Peppermint:  peppermint if full of menthol, which eases breathing and relaxes the muscles of the respiratory system.  It fights congestion and is rich in antioxidants.  These antioxidants prevent numerous illnesses and, the stronger the body, the better it can fight off disease.

Mullein:  Mullein clears the lungs of excessive mucous, cleanses the bronchial tubes and soothes inflammation of the respiratory tract.  The leaves and flowers of the plant, are used in preparation of potent herbal extracts.

Oregano:  The Oregano plant is full of vitamins and nutrients, that strengthens the immune system.  It is high in carvacrol and Rosmarinus acid; natural decongestants, that reduce histamine.  Oregano supports the health of the respiratory tract and helps airflow through the nasal passage.

There are many other herbs that I can mention in this blog.  The above is just an introduction, so to speak, to the wonders of using herbs (in whichever form) as medicine.  If you are uncertain about using a particular essential oil or herb, as medicine, speak to the experts.  Essential oils and herbs are very versatile – used in cooking, baking, in medicine, beauty- and bath products, as well as cleaning the home, the uses are endless.  Just a tip, for those who use natural products for cleaning the home; make sure your pets are safe, as some can be toxic.

Seasons are changing…and so should you!

As we move from one season to another, taking care of your health and making changes, are key to keep your immune system strong.  What do I mean?  Many times, when seasons change, people develop allergies like sinus, hay fever and the like.  The reason is either because of the pollens and grasslands or because of the dry, dusty air.  Taking extra vitamin C, a good multi-complex and an immune booster product, can help to keep these allergies at bay; or at least make it less severe.  If you don’t suffer from allergies, but don’t like certain seasons, then the best thing you can do is to change your mindset!  For some people living in countries where their winters are dark and long, it can help to brighten up their living spaces with colours like red, orange, yellow, pink and green.  Years ago, a restaurant in London, used yellow-coloured light bulbs instead of white, during winter time.  What the restaurant owner noticed is that people became more friendly and happier (whilst the weather outside was grey).

Watching what you eat can also make a difference.  During the cold, winter months, you want to eat more starch, soups, rich foods and the like, in order to keep warm.  During the warm months, ditch the starch-overload for salads, fruits, lighter drinks like water, fruit juices and teas, and non-rich foods.  If you notice that your clothes are a bit tighter than before, the easiest way to get that in order is to stop snacking in-between meals.  However, if you suffer from low blood sugar, for example, snack on fruit, nuts and seeds, instead of cakes, chips and/or chocolates.

As the seasons change…so should you!  A good start is to make a conscious decision to enjoy each day and to be grateful for everything and everyone around us.  Pampering yourself is another way to get ready for the changes.  Whether you go for a spa-treatment, new hairstyle, buy something new or have a “day off” at home, it doesn’t matter.  Trying out new recipes is another great way to enjoy the weather.  Spring cleaning your closet, home, office space, and your relationships, are wonderful ways to get rid of the old:  as the saying goes “out with the old, in with the new.”  Traditionally, spring cleaning is usually done when the weather starts to warm up.  However, you can also spring clean your home during autumn / winter time; especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. 

Nature is fantastic to mimic as the seasons change.  Animals don’t kick up a fuss; instead, they go with the natural rhythms of Mother Earth and prepare for the months ahead.  When we, as humans, prepare and get into the right frame of mind, then we can also go with the flow and enjoy the seasons; regardless.  As the colours change, so too does the landscapes.  A tree full of green leaves is pretty, but a tree full of different red-, orange- and brown leaves are beautiful.  So too is a bare tree, against a clear blue sky!  Maybe the older generation was clever; they spent more time outside and with each other, only consuming that which was in season and followed the cycles of the sun and moon.  “Change is the only thing that is constant,” so deep breathes my readers, and enjoy the moment!

Time out

It is not always easy, for many people, to take some “time out” or a break, in their busy schedules.  However, it is vital not only to your physical health, but also your emotional- and spiritual well-being.  Going on a sabbatical or just taking a break, is key to not only unwind and relax, but also helps you to spend time with yourself and/or with loved ones, in a much more intimate way.  I, myself, took some time out (the last 2 weeks), from all social media platforms; including my blog!  The only “contact” I had with the world (apart from the people I was with on my trip), was messages on my phone.

This break from all social platforms, as well as not listening to mainstream media (something I have been doing for the last 2+ years), was the best thing I could’ve done!  Taking time out is a great way to recharge your batteries; to connect with yourself (as mentioned earlier); but also, to connect with nature.  Today there are so many people, of all ages, hooked onto their phones and/or laptops, that they don’t even see, let alone hear, the person (s) next to them / around them.  Not to mention that they start to lose touch with nature, the “outside world” and, in the end, themselves.

The modern world is one where people think that everything you do should revolve around being busy all the time, working you butt off, being connected only through technology and the like, and only take time out when you are ill!  The reality is that it is due to this lifestyle, that more and more people are becoming ill, tired, depressed and frustrated.  Taking time out doesn’t only mean go on a long holiday, sabbatical or tour.  Taking time out can be something simple as putting your phone off for a few hours or even over weekends.  It means leave your work at the office (home office included); talk to your family and friends, face-to-face, in person; not on the phone (unless you live in different parts of the world).

Children today grow up with a phone or tablet in their hands…what happened to children playing a game, reading a book or building a puzzle?  It is sad that there are so many parents that would rather give their child a phone or tablet, to keep him- / herself busy, than teach the child to play, and so forth.  There should always be a healthy balance between technology and nature.  Technology can be used for many good things, but it can also be detrimental to society as a whole, when people stop interacting with each other and nature, in person. 

A great rule of thumb, both for children and adults alike, is to spend as much time away from your screen, reading a book, going out in nature, chatting to people, exercising, and the like, as you spend glaring at the screen.  For example, if you spend an hour a day on social media, spend an equal hour doing something else (not on your phone / laptop).

The peace and quiet I had, the last 2 weeks, from not looking at any social media, and mainstream media platforms, was the best thing for me.  Not only did it give me a chance to really recharge my batteries, but (in my case), I connected with family and friends on a deeper level.  The time out also put things more in perspective and it help me to clear my mind about decisions that were not yet made. Next time things get too much, make sure to take a break.  Take a long shower or bath, put your phone off, switch off mainstream media and/or social media for a day or longer, and go outside to breathe in the fresh air.  Trust me; the best medicine, is quiet time spent with yourself!

Breathing gives, and is, Life

We start life in this world by drawing our first breath and exhaling it (usually) with a cry!

Breathing is considered the most important of all the functions of the body because all the other functions depend upon it.  A person can exist several days without food, fewer days without drinking but only minutes without breathing.

Because respiration is an automatic function and takes care of itself, it is considered unnecessary to do anything about it.  The result is that today most people only breathe enough to keep them alive.  Their breathing is so shallow that they are using only about a quarter of their lung capacity.  The breath that consists mainly of oxygen permeates every cell in the body and is the force for the renewal and revitalizing of every cell.  Therefore, by breathing more fully and deeply not only do you improve your health but also the quality of your life.

Although inhalation and exhalation are done spontaneously, it can be controlled consciously.  Conscious, deep breathing should not be too difficult to do for one do it without being aware of it – it takes place while you sleep!  By practicing deep breathing consciously we will become aware of our breathing and hopefully better it.  So, when you inhale, let your ribs expand sideways – starting from the bottom up.  The diaphragm will move down and the belly will rise slightly so as to increase the lung capacity.  The entire inhalation should be done gently and effortlessly.  With the exhalation you use a slight pressure to push the complete air out; by pulling the belly slightly back.

“Discover your lungs” by practicing deep breathing whenever you get a chance; for example, waiting in a queue, in the car and especially before you go to sleep.  By practicing deep breathing we not only oxygenate our brains and clear our minds but we also improve the blood circulation and the functioning of the immune system.

Breath and emotions are also closely linked:  when we are frightened, we gasp in and hold our breath; when tired or bored, we take a long breath in and out – we yawn; when angry our breath is irregular and when tense of full of worries, we breathe shallow.  But it is possible to reduce the effect of emotional turbulence by bringing the breath under control by breathing more evenly and deeply.  This will calm the nerves and steady the mind.  We are not only dependent on our breath for life.

Our capacity to breathe well will often determine our vitality level.  Be being present energetically we can affect our everyday life and “embrace the blessing we have received.”  Through the ages different kinds of breathing exercises have been used to attain specific results.  This will be discussed at a later stage.

In Yoga there are 2 ways of breathing:  one to get warm and another to cool the body. The warming breath: Take a deep breath in and breathe out forcefully, contracting the abdominal muscles.  Immediately breathe in again with the same force, expanding the abdominal muscles.  Continue for 10 breathes.  This is one round.  Repeat 3 – 5 rounds. The cooling breath:  Curl your tongue into a straw, so to speak.  Inhale and exhale whilst the tongue is curled.  This can be done for as long as is comfortable and/or when you feel you have cooled down.

Lastly; for all the hikers and joggers out there.  If you find you are getting tired whilst not walking, hiking or jogging for a long period, breathe slower than your walking- or jogging-pace.  In other words, when you inhale and exhale at the same speed, albeit slower than your pace, you will not get tired too soon!  Breathing is vital to all living things; including nature!  Without the right amounts of oxygen and Co2, life on earth will not survive.  As you breathe, be grateful that you are alive.  Go out as much as you can, into the fresh air, and breathe in life itself!

Colours that lift you up and bring you down

Have you ever heard of the colour wheel?  If not, you might have spotted something resembling it either at a paint store or a cosmetics counter!  Colours play a huge role in our everyday lives; from how we decorate our spaces, to what we wear.  How we put the colours together, will determine whether or not an outfit or space, is inviting, lifts you up of brings you down.  Many, many years ago, in 1666, Sir Isaac Newton invented the colour wheel.  In the mid-1900s, a Swiss painter, Johannes Itten, reinvented it.  Itten fell in love with all the different colours that he saw in nature.  As a teacher, designer and artist, he decided to devote his life to exploring how colour, emotion, personality and life itself, intersect.  The relationships between the different colours fascinated him.  Some colours complimented each other, while others were completely opposites.  

During his time as professor at Germany’s Bauhaus School of Art, he developed an introductory course for all new art students.  This course encouraged the students to dive into their own personal exploration of colour, texture and form.  Today, this same technique is still used both in fashion, graphic designing and interior decorating. There are different colours:  primary, secondary and tertiary.  Primary colours or “original colours,” are red, blue and yellow.  These colours, when mixed, create the secondary colours.  A mix of red and yellow, makes orange; a mix of yellow and blue makes green; and a mix of red and blue gives purple.   Tertiary colours are created when you mix one primary colour with a secondary colour:  yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, red-violet.

On the colour wheel, you will notice that every colour is strategically placed next to each other; each colour, that has a relationship with another colour (compliments each other), is placed next to each other.  Professor Itten felt strongly, that colours must not just be seen, but also felt and experienced at every level.  Thus, he started to combine colours together.  Today, we talk about the “hue, value, temperature and intensity” of colours.

The Hue (also called root or source) is one of the 12 key colour places of the colour wheel.  Artists use some or all of these 12 colours when they mix the paint.  Different shades of a certain colour, is what is referred to as the hue.  The value of colour is usually compared against a white, grey or black background.  The value refers to the lightness or darkness of colours in relation to these 3 colours.  Temperature is an interesting term and used to describe the emotional relationship that Itten had with colours.  Certain colours are warm, whilst others are cool.  Intensity or saturation, is when you measure the brightness of any colour.  First you have to identify the root hue / colour most closely to it on the wheel.  usually this is one of the 2 neighbouring colours sitting next to it on the colour wheel.  The intensity of the colour is characterized by the brightness or dullness of the colour, when looking at its primary hue.

How do you work with colour?  Standing in front of your cupboard; are there days that you don’t know what to wear?  Are you wearing or using colours, that doesn’t compliment your skin tone, your mood and/or your personality?  So often people not only wear the wrong colours, but they also use the wrong colours in their home and office.  Colours can lift you up or bring you down.  Warm colours, like your reds and oranges, give you an instant boost of energy.  People notice you when you wear it.  Cool colours, like your blues and greens, calms you down and creates a peaceful environment.  Just imagine a dull, grey day outside and you wearing a red, purple, pink or yellow coat.  Immediately it will lift your mood and/or give you a boost of energy; regardless of the weather!  Wearing or using mainly black, grey and/or white, is not just dull, but also serious, manly (in my opinion) and not warm and inviting.  Therefore, always make sure to use a pop of colour, when your basic colour is cool and/or neutral.

Here are a few tips from Professor Itten:

Contrast of saturation:  mixing intense and dull colours together, for example a vibrant red or yellow against a dull grey.

Contrast of warm and cool:  orange, red, brown and yellow are viewed as warm; blue, grey and green are cool.  Matching a warm colour with a cool colour, will grab the viewer’s attention (for example red and green).

Contrast of light and dark:  matching your light colour with a dark colour.

Contrast of hue:  a complementary matching pairs one hue, that is closer to one of the 3 primary colours, with a hey that is further away from the primary colours.

Contrast of extension:  using only 2 colours, one is used as the main colour and the other is only used here and there.

Simultaneous contrast:  pairing colours together that are on the opposite sides of the colour wheel, for example pairing a blue-based hue with one that falls between the yellow and red.

Complementary contrast:  also called opposing, a contrast is when 2 colours, that would face one another on the colour wheel, are placed next to each other.

In nature all colours work together to create contrast and harmony.  When choosing a colour scheme for your home, always make sure that it blends together; even when it is contrasting each other.  When choosing which colours will work in your wardrobe and on you skin, make sure to choose colours with the right undertones.  Warm skin tones have a yellow undertone, while cool skin tones have a blueish undertone.  If you are uncertain; ask a consultant to help you find the perfect colours that will complement your skin and your personality.  Happy colour-hunting everyone!

Keep moving whilst on a flight (and/or even at your desk)

I am sure we all stretch, stand up and walk around a bit when we’re on a long-haul flight; and even when we’re at the office, sitting for long hours a day.  Our bodies are not made to be / stay still all the time – movement is vital.  Not only to keep blood circulation going, but also to maintain the oxygen-flow in and out of the body. Here are a few exercises / movements that you can do, whether you are in an aeroplane or at your office desk.

Seated-exercises

  • Heel and toe lifts:  sitting up straight, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, lift your heels up (as if you are standing on your toes).  Then leave your heels on the floor and lift your toes.  Repeat this a number of times (with or without shoes on, as long as the shoes or socks don’t pinch you).
  • Head-, neck-, and shoulder rolls:  slowly drop your chin to your chest, then slowly roll it to the right and left.  Another way is to keep your head up and look over to the right-, then left-side.  You can also tilt your head (as if you want to touch your shoulder with your ear), to the right and to the left.  Please do this slowly and never roll the head back.  You can look slightly up at the ceiling, but never “squash” your neck vertebrae.  Not only is it bad for circulation, but it is also dangerous, as the neck vertebrae is not as thick as the rest of the vertebrae in your spine
  • Flexing and pointing your feet and hands are another easy way to keep the blood flowing.
  • Flinger flicks / Castanets:  spread out your finger, then bring your pinkies in toward the centre of the “heels” of your hands, then back out, without moving any of your other fingers.  Do this 10 times, then repeat with the other fingers.  Now do one finger at a time (as if you are playing castanets).  To do the flicks, simply imagine that you are flicking water off your fingers, by tapping your thumb with each finger individually.
  • Fanning the toes:  Spread out your fingers and/or your toes (if you’re not wearing shoes) as if they are a fan; in other words, try to create spaces in-between your fingers and toes.
  • Picking up a pencil:  Imagine that you have to use your toes to pick up a pencil on the floor.  Curl the toes, then relax them.  Repeat a few times.
  • Do the same as above, but instead arch your foot as if you have to pick the pencil up by lifting part of your foot up as well as your toes.
  • Stretching:  Interlink your fingers and, if you don’t know your neighbour, straighten your arms in the air and stretch your back.  This is a good way to separate the vertebrae and get oxygen and blood flowing.  This stretch can also be done to the front of the body – you will notice that your shoulder blades curve forward, so make sure to roll the shoulders back once you are sitting upright again.
  • Moving slightly forward in your seat, interlock your fingers behind your back, stretch the arms down and lift your head slightly to look up.  Again, not above your head, but in front of you towards the roof.
  • A good lower back stretch, is to curve your back by pulling the tummy in and imagining that your belly button is touching the seat.  Doing this a few times is a good and easy way to release tension in the lower area.
  • Another good stretch for your back is to curl down slowly and touch the floor, then gently curl back into a straightened position. 
  • Crossing your one leg over the other, to form the number 4, lean slightly forward.  This will stretch your hips.
  • Sitting up straight, twist to the right, then left, making sure not to go too far.  It should feel comfortable, not uncomfortable.
  • Lastly, you can bring your one bent knee up to your chest, then the other.  Starting with the right leg is best, as the lymphatic system functions by flowing up on the right-side of the body towards the heart, then down the left-side of the body.

Standing exercises

  • Just like sitting, you can stretch your arms overhead or in front of you and reach either up towards the ceiling or as far forward as possible.  this can also be done behind you.
  • If you have space and nobody is going to be bothered, stretch one arm overhead by bending one / both knees slightly.  Bend over to the other side.
  • Whilst standing, lift your heels off the floor for 10 times, then bend your knees and, without locking the knees, raise your toes off the floor for 10 times.
  • Step out to the front with one leg.  Bend the front leg, making sure that the knee is in line with your ankle.  Straighten the back leg, trying not to bend the knee, and see if you can put your ankle down on the floor.  This is a good stretch for the hips and thighs.
  • Standing in the same position as above, bend the back leg, again making sure the knee is not over the toes, and straighten the front leg.  Lift the toes off the floor, lean slightly forward, keeping the front leg straightened at all times.  Slowly come back up, point and flex the foot and repeat with the other leg.  This is a good stretch for the hamstrings.
  • Standing in a V-position with your legs evenly spaced, gently bend the one knee and feel the stretch in the inner thigh.  Repeat on the other side.  And as always, make sure the knees are not over the toes, but rather behind them when you bend your knees.

Flying can be dreaded; especially if it is a very long flight.  One can only sleep for so many hours, read for so many hours, and sometimes the chatter can also start to dwindle.  Keeping our bodies moving, even when we’re in a small, restricted area like an aeroplane, is not only good for us physically, but also mentally and emotionally.  When our bodies move, our minds move, and we have the energy to “hang in there…we are almost at your destination!”  Enjoy the flight and remember to stay nourished, hydrated and move around when it is a long-haul flight.  Soon enough you will hear: “ladies and gentleman…we have landed!” 

Colour in décor

I am no expert, yet, in interior decorating, but I do love learning about it and trying out ideas.  There are so many different colours, that you don’t know where to start.  Many agree that you have to have a focal point in a room; then work around that.  It can be anything from an artwork, furniture piece or carpet.  Personally, I love colours that you can mix and match. 

It is interesting to note that, very often, the colours that is “in season” for décor, are the same as the clothes. Is it a good idea to follow trends every year?  Yes and no.  Yes, if it is a colour that comes back year after year.  Then I would say it is a good investment.  However, there are colours, patterns, styles and the like, that only come in once.  I would stay clear of those.  Fast fashion is something that disappears just as quickly as it has hit the stores.  The quality of the material is not good and very often, it has been poorly made.

When you want to live in a space, it is important to look at a few factors:  for example, are you living alone or not; do you have animals; do you have children; are you renting or did you buy the property.  All these questions will determine how you decorate, what fabrics to choose, and so forth.  When living with someone (even a child), it is important to sit down and brainstorm, as no 2 persons’ tastes are alike.  When you have animals, take into consideration which materials to use.  Materials that are easily cleaned, durable and strong, are a better option for animals and small children alike.

Interior designing and interior decorating go hand in hand.  When you are designing a room or a home, think of it as the framework of an artwork.  The interior décor is the artwork.  Colours, fabrics, textures all play a role in bringing together the artwork.  Neutral colours as your base are always a good option.  It is long lasting and never goes out of fashion.  Adding and changing the small things in a room is a great way to change the look and feel.  If there is one colour, I will stay clear of, as my main colour choice, then it is black.  Black furniture, like a leather lounge suite, is ok, but not a good choice, in my personal opinion, to run through the whole house. 

Colours create a certain vibe or energy in a house; the same way you feel when you wear it.  Red, for example, is a vibrant colour full of energy, whilst green and blue, are calm.  Pink is a wonderful colour to use in a bedroom, whilst yellow can bring in the sunshine.  Black, on the other hand, is a “dead” colour and it creates “heavy” energies.  When choosing a black lounge suite, opt for coloured cushions, light curtains and other, lighter decorations.  Paintings with plenty of colour can also lighten up the room.  If you do want to use black, grey and/or white throughout your home, be careful.  Yes, as a base colour it can work when the colours are repeated throughout, but do make sure to add plenty of colour with cushions, carpets, decorating items and the like.

What is important, I believe, is to always think ahead.  Will you want to live in the space for the next 5, 10, 20 odd years?  Is everyone, who lives in the space, on the same page?  Buying good quality furniture, that will last for a very long time, is a wonderful idea.  If money is a bit tight, go for something that has a couple of years’ guarantees and safe for what you’d like.  Changing the decorations, like a lamp shade, carpet, cushions, in a room, can be done on a budget.  Just changing the layout of a room, will instantly transform the look and feel!

I can write so much more, but I am going to end the blog post here…happy decorating everyone!  After all, they say a change is as good as [almost] as a holiday! 

Personal trainers – are they worth the money spent?

Personal trainers, just like gyms, have been around for as long as I can remember.  Unlike joining a group exercises class, personal training is more personal.  It is mostly on a one-on-one basis, but can also be a couple exercising with a personal trainer.  A personal trainer’s main goal should be to help his / her client to become healthier, fit and stronger.  A good personal trainer is someone that is well-qualified and knows what is correct exercises for each client.  An excellent personal trainer will go the extra mile.  Instead of just looking at “physical” answers to a client’s problem (being overweight, for example), the trainer will dig deeper.  Taking into consideration what the clients’ lifestyle is, their diet, sleeping patterns, stress-levels and type of work, a more holistic approach can be obtained. 

Personal trainers are not cheap; regardless in which country you live.  In today’s world, people are looking at quality over quantity.  When you spend a couple of thousand rands / dollars / pounds / euros on a personal trainer, you want to make sure you get your monies worth every time.  Many times, you see a personal trainer on their phone, instead of giving attention to the client.  Although some exercises are repetitive, it is still important to stay engaged with the client and check that he / she is doing the exercises correct. 

Being a personal trainer, one is often a psychologist as well.  Building a relationship of trust is key, as well as honesty and putting the client’s best interest first.  Listening when a client says he / she struggles with an exercise, or is really tired, is important.  It doesn’t matter how fit you, as a trainer, are.  It matters that you take your client’s health into consideration.  Thus, an assessment is done first, before you start your journey.

Coming back to the question – are personal trainers worth the money?  The answer is yes:  if they are giving you 100% attention with every session, if you see results, if you train with someone that is well qualified and listens to you.  When choosing a personal trainer, make sure to ask around and/or go onto social media and read what people say.  Training with the best-looking trainer, for example, is not always the right choice.  each trainer specializes in certain areas of fitness, for example if you need rehabilitation, make sure your trainer is qualified.  Too often people get injured because the trainer (and this goes for group classes too), is not qualified in rehabilitation.

As times change, many people opt for online classes.  Yes, it is cheaper (just pop over to YouTube and have a look), but it is not always the best option.  When you have never done exercises, or don’t like exercising, joining a gym and/or getting a personal trainer, is a great way to motivate you to start.  Being at the gym is not only great for socializing, but members motivate and support each other.  Whether you prefer an online session, or an in-person session, always make sure that your personal trainer is well-qualified and worth the money spent!  Happy exercising!

Staying hydrated, whilst exercising – yes, or no?

For many years, fitness enthusiasts, athletes and the like, have been told that dehydration (resulting in a heat stroke), is dangerous.  In 1996, the American College of Sports Medicine, suggested athletes drink before, during and after exercising, as a way to try to replace some of the water lost due to sweating.  However, this theory is completely flawed.

Firstly, the idea that any level of dehydration impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, comes from a lab.  Here athletes exercised indoors, without any wind, in hot and humid conditions.  Without drinking water, it is only natural for the body temperature to rise.   The University of Cape Town did a similar study, but they not only simulated wind, but also increased the speed.  By doing so, it was found that the athletes’ body temperatures were constant, irrespective of the amount of water they drank.  Therefore, if the movement of air is sufficient, it doesn’t matter how much water an athlete drinks whilst exercising.

Second dilemma with the 1996-study, is that it is impossible to calculate how much sweat is lost during exercising.  Advising clients to drink plenty of fluids, can lead to the excessive intake of fluids.  Drinking too much can cause nausea and other discomforts; especially whilst exercising.

Thirdly; numerous research studies conducted during competitions, indicated that, if athletes drink according to their thirst, they lose between 2% and 5% of their body weight during exercises.  Although athletes might replace less fluid than what they lose when sweating, it still doesn’t cause serious problems.  There is one thing, though, that can happen:  hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia refers to the reduction in blood sodium levels, which occur due to a combination of factors:  genetic factors, the body’s regulation of the salt and water-balance, and excessive fluid intake.  When an athlete consumes too much fluid (in excess of sweat loss), then the athlete will gain weight during exercise.  This can cause a reduction in blood sodium levels and have lethal consequences. Moral of the story is:  listen to your body – always!  When your mouth is dry, you know it is time to drink water.  Cheers everyone, keep moving and stay hydrated!

Moderation is key; what do you think?

Whatever the season, I am sure we all enjoyed (enjoy) eating more, or more things that is not very healthy.  Think about ice creams, milkshakes and the like, during summer.  Breads, pasta dishes, rusks and the like, during winter.  Is it really all that bad to eat things that is normally seen as unhealthy; or is it fine as long as you keep it to a minimum?

My personal perspective, and experience, has taught me that, regardless what you eat; it is the amount and size that count!  Of course, as a Nutritionist myself, I will never recommend eating junk food per se; but if you do want to treat yourself to the occasional pizza or burger, it is ok and you don’t have to stress about it.  It does, however, become a no-no, if you want to eat it every other day or once a week.  The reason is simple: “junk” food, just like processed foods, have got hidden salts, sugars and other synthetic add-ons in, that you normally wouldn’t find in a home cooked meal.  For people who are sensitive and/or allergic to certain products, eating too much processed foods can play havoc on your digestive system; not to mention your waistline.

During warm, summer months, you want more fluids and cold things to eat.  Having ice cream is fine, but, if you are worried about your waist line, opt for ice cream with less cream in or sorbet.  The verdict is still out, but the latest research indicates that low fat milk has more calcium in than full cream milk.  The only difference is the amount of fat in the milk.  Quenching your thirst with water is not only a healthier option, but it really does the trick.  Having a cooldrink is not bad, but be careful of the amount of soda you drink.  Even when the label says it is “sugar free,” it is not.  Instead of putting sugar in, it is laced with synthetic products that are unhealthier than sugar.  Sugar per se (in its raw, unrefined and unbleached form) is not bad; it is the amount that you ingest that is the culprit (so to speak).

In winter months people tend to navigate towards “comfort foods,” for example pasta, soups, breads and other starchy products.  Our bodies instinctively knows that it needs these types of food for “fuel” and to stay warm.  Again, it is not what you eat but the amount.  Making small changes can make a big difference, for example instead of eating white bread, opt for brown or whole wheat; instead of using cream in your soup, add yogurt or milk.  If you know that you are sensitive to / intolerant of certain grains (pasta), then make sure to use a brand that you can eat.  Many people opt for Durum wheat Semolina, instead of Durum wheat.  Not only is the Semolina easier to digest, but the hard wheat shells have been removed.  Pesticides are a big culprit in causing food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities.  Whenever you can, opt for organic and free-range produce.

Whatever season you are enjoying right now, always make sure to listen to your body and watch your portions!  If you find yourself feeling hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes.  If you are not really hungry but peckish, try nibbling on dried fruit, nuts, rice cakes or fruit; instead of crisps, chocolates and so forth.  However, do allow yourself the odd chocolate, ice cream, pasta, hot chocolate and pizza!  Just don’t replace your healthy meals and foodstuff, with processed, ready-made dishes.  Even if you are living on your own, make sure to cook your own meals.  You can cook in bulk and freeze it, if you don’t have loads of time during the week to cook.  Grabbing a meal on the go is easier yes, but is it as nutritious, healthy and full of flavour as a home cooked meal?  Rarely!  Enjoy the seasons and remember, moderation and size, are the two important ingredients when it comes to enjoying “comfort” or junk food.